Britain to help Kurdish forces in Iraq

Britain will provide Chinook helicopters, similar to this. Photo / AP
Britain will provide Chinook helicopters, similar to this. Photo / AP

Britain says it will transport military supplies from other states to Kurdish forces battling jihadist militants in northern Iraq, and will send Chinook helicopters to assist its aid mission.

"We are sending a small number of Chinook helicopters to the region for use if we decide we need further humanitarian relief options," said a statement from Prime Minister David Cameron's office.

"We have also agreed to transport from other contributing states some critical military re-supplies for the Kurdish forces."

Downing Street could not immediately comment on which states would be providing the supplies.

The statement was issued after British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond had chaired a meeting of the emergency response committee COBR and following a telephone conversation between Cameron and Australian counterpart Tony Abbott.

A British RAF Tornado.

Photo / AFP

British Tornado fighter jets were launched to provide surveillance support for its humanitarian aid effort to help refugees fleeing jihadist Islamic State (IS) fighters in northern Iraq, soon after making a second airdrop.

Britain's Ministry of Defence (MoD) confirmed that the Royal Air Force (RAF) had sent Tornado aircraft from RAF Marham in south east England, fitted with reconnaissance pods.

Watch: US Airstrike targets Militants in Iraq

The planes were bound for RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus, where they would be ready "to provide vital intelligence".

The MoD would not confirm how many aircraft had been sent, but the BBC reported three jets had taken off at 2pm (3am Wednesday NZT).

Downing Street stressed that Britain's "focus remains the humanitarian situation", particularly the Yazidi refugees trapped on Mount Sinjar. Three UK aid drops have now taken place, with RAF planes delivering 3180 re-usable water containers, filled with a total of 15,900 litres of clean water, and 816 solar lanterns.

"Meanwhile urgent planning to get those trapped on the mountainside to safety will continue in the coming days between ourselves and US, the Kurdish authorities and other partners," added a Downing Street spokesperson.

Yazidi families are in grave danger. Photo / AFP

An Iraqi lawmaker who helped bring attention to the plight of besieged members of her Yazidi community was wounded yesterday in the crash of a helicopter delivering aid, officers said.

The pilot was killed when the chopper, packed with rescued Yazidis, crashed during takeoff after delivering aid to Mount Sinjar, two senior army officers said.

Yazidi MP Vian Dakhil, whose emotional appeal in parliament on the plight of people stranded on the mountain made her the public voice of her community, was injured in the crash.

A New York Times journalist also sustained non-life threatening injuries in the crash, the paper said.

There was no immediate report of any Yazidis aboard being injured.

Watch: Iraqi Airstrikes Target ISIS Outposts

Thousands of members of the Yazidi minority are trapped on the mountain in northwestern Iraq with little food or water by jihadists from IS who overran the region.

The UN refuge agency put the number of people on the mountain at 20,000-30,000, while UN minority rights expert Rita Izsak warned they face "a mass atrocity and potential genocide within days or hours."

Insurgents led by IS jihadists launched a sweeping offensive in June that has overrun large areas of five Iraqi provinces and displaced hundreds of thousands of people.

The US military is carrying out air strikes against militants in north Iraq, including yesterday on a mortar position it said was firing on Kurdish forces attempting to defend Yazidis north of Sinjar.


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